bullying-739607 by Chesi – Fotos CC
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“I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.” —Justice Potter Stewart, concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio, regarding possible obscenity in The Lovers.

Like pornography, what is cyber bullying is itself subjective and lacks clearly defined parameters.  The U.S.A. based site, stopcyberbullying.org states “Cyber bullying” is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.”

My own school uses the simple statement in the secondary laptop use agreement of “Don’t do bad things”.  Now I recognise that this statement is vague enough to capture a range of actions but undoubtedly within that net is cyber bullying.  As a guideline to what a bad thing could it would seem sensible to cross reference our own disciplinary procedure.  Under Step 2, which is described as not behaving responsibly, cyber bullying has been clearly highlighted.  So the dots are joined between abstract policy statements.

Yet abstract policy statements do not equate to everyday practice, they certainly do not help a student who is being cyber bullied and as a teacher I am not aware of either a related procedure or the underlying issues which have driven it.    Now before people misinterpret what I am saying let me make it clear that I honestly believe that my school would respond to (and undoubtedly does) such issues in a fair and considered manner.  Yet what I am also stating is that at present the bigger picture has not been addressed.

The Scottish based anti-bullying site respectme.org.uk suggests some important elements of practice which need to be in place to combat bullying:

1)    Culture 

An organisation’s culture should make it clear that bullying is never acceptable and support all adults and children and young people in achieving this ethos.

My thoughts: The opportunities to address and highlight the issues of cyber bullying only appears as a session during the year 7 tech conference day which they attend upon receiving their laptops for the first time.  The need for the issue to be explicitly addressed and at different year levels to empahsize both consistency and more advance intricacies that will come as the students become older.  This should be aligned with the ideas of each student’s growth as a digital citizen and what responsibilities come with that role. This also provides a route to consider our students beyond the confines of the school grounds.

2)    Practice

Day to day practices should reflect the message that bullying is never acceptable and should be continuously reinforced in all the work that you do.

My thoughts: The effective implementation of a clearer procedure of practice to all staff should use role play scenarios.  This would provide staff with an exposure of a range of situations and encourage through discussion an informed alignment in response to these issues.  This implementation should also provide an opportunity for the issues discussed with students to be further disseminated with staff.  All of which opens up the opportunity for a continued conversation with students when those magical teachable moments occur.

3)    Response

Responses when dealing with children and young people who are involved in bullying incidents is vitally important. The response should be consistent, regardless of whom the child or young person approaches.

My thoughts: The details of the response should be more closely considered.  The abstract behaviour policy at present does not reflect an opportunity for meaningful peer mediation.  Also an anonymous forum or tip off location could be offered where students can highlight examples of cyber bullying for the school to deal with and to further empower those bullied students.

With these elements as a starting point I am going to add my own ideas and then will work with my own pastoral role (I am a house leader – go blue house) to move this issue forward.  I will let you know how this goes.